It’s the time of the year when people are busy with holiday preparations which often brings a host of events and a shortage of time to prepare for them. I recently met with a couple of Island chefs to chat about canapés and to find out what’s trendy these days in finger foods.
Jennifer & Mike Levy, from Rusticoville, PEI, operate Green Island Catering Company. Yes, there is help for your holiday events! The couple, both originally from Ontario, took a rather roundabout way to find their way to the Island. Both have university degrees and worked in the corporate world in Calgary before heading off to the sunny Caribbean to spend three years living and working in Grand Cayman. While soaking up the southern sun, they found themselves working in the food industry and becoming more interested in cooking. They came across some Prince Edward Islanders living in Grand Cayman who kept telling them about the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown, PEI, suggesting they check it out. But, first, they returned to their native Ontario where they spent a few months during which time Mike took a hobby cooking course at George Brown College which really sealed his interest in pursuing a career in culinary arts. Soon, they were on their way to PEI to study at the Culinary Institute from which both graduated from the two-year program in 2012.
While they have worked in various restaurants since graduating from culinary school, they have started a successful catering business and will cater any event of any size. In fact, they have catered the PEI Legislature’s “Speaker’s Tartan Tea” for the past three years.
I began by asking the chefs how many canapés should be prepared per person for an event. As a general rule, they suggest 3-5 per person if the time of the event is not a regular meal time or if it is at a time that guests most likely would have already eaten. However, if the event is between the hours of 11am – 1 pm or 5pm – 7pm, then 5-7 canapés should be prepared per guest.
We then discussed what’s trendy in canapés these days. Canapés generally consist of three parts: a base, some kind of sauce, and a garnish. The base can consist of a variety of items – for example, small biscuits, phyllo pastry, spring roll wrappers, or wonton cups.
Braised beef and pulled pork tend to be popular in canapés, just as they are in main meal menu items.
Foods that are easy to prepare and canapés that include comfort foods are also popular. For example, tiny tea biscuits topped with braised beef or turkey/chicken are quite popular. Cookie dough shot glasses are also quite a trendy novelty item – they consist of cookie dough formed into a container shape, baked, and filled with a favourite liqueur or, for the younger crowd, milk.
Or, make the cookie shot containers even larger and line them with melted chocolate (yum!)
During my visit, the chefs demonstrated how to make a base from thinly sliced potatoes, seasoned with a mixture of herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano), grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese, and a bit of cream (yes, the real stuff!). Layered into greased muffin tins and baked for 20 minutes at 400°F, these make a tasty canapé base with a dob of sour cream or herbed cream cheese added and topped with braised beef or pulled pork.
These canapés are tasty with, or without, the addition of sour cream.
Jennifer also demonstrated how to make a sweet treat that consists of grapes, caramel popcorn, chopped nut clusters, and Cambozolo cheese, all held together with a caramel sauce made with corn syrup, sugar, and water.
So, if you are short on time this holiday season and want to take the stress out of preparing for a cocktail party or other holiday event, you may want to consider having the event catered. Jennifer and Mike run a full service catering company and can be reached by phone at 902-963-2176, by email at email@example.com, or through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Green-Island-Catering-Company/
Please Note: Due to low lighting conditions at this event venue, it was very difficult to capture quality photos for this posting.
Several of the “signature” events of PEI’s Fall Flavours Festival focus on certain foods. The recent “Beef and Blues” event in Summerside was all about Island beef.
Food Network’s Corbin Tomaszeski was the celebrity guest chef who hosted the evening. You may recognize him from Food Network’s shows “Dinner Party Wars“, “Restaurant Makeover” and “Restaurant Takeover“. On this night, however, Chef Corbin was found “working the crowd” in the lobby of Credit Union Place before the event venue was open.
The ice surface of Credit Union Place was transformed into a blues-themed venue for the sold-out event.
The evening began with Joe MacMillan providing blues music to set the tone for the evening.
“Beef and Blues” was structured differently from other signature events of the Fall Flavours Festival that I have attended which, typically, have chefs from the Culinary Institute of Canada or a particular restaurant preparing the food. In the case of “Beef and Blues”, 12 Island restaurants each had stations at which they featured a dish prepared with Island Beef. Island restaurants participating were: Island Stone Pub, Gentleman Jim’s, Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar, Rodd Mill River Resort, The Landing, The Catch, Anson’s Restaurant & Bar, Brother’s 2, Five Eleven West, The Big Orange Lunchbox, the Lobster House Restaurant & Oyster Bar, and Pendergast’s PEI Food. In addition, three restaurants or local food producers provided desserts: Sweet Things, Samuel’s Coffee House, and Five Eleven West.
Here’s a small sampling of some of the featured dishes.
The Brother’s 2 Restaurant in Summerside featured the hushpuppy and meatball skewer.
This buttermilk chicken fried steak with tomato and corn salsa came from Anson’s Restaurant & Bar in Summerside.
Guests were free to circulate, in any order they wished, amongst the stations to sample their offerings. At each placesetting at the tables, was a “Passport to Taste”.
Guests carried their “passport” as they visited the stations and checked off each sample they tried. At the end of the evening, guests could drop their “passports” into a ballot box for a draw for a three-course dinner prepared by PEI’s Chef Illona Daniel.
The Big Orange Lunchbox from Charlottetown featured dry roast beef ribs with waffle chips and marshmallow dip (yes, marshmallow dip!)
Events such as these put consumers in direct touch with local chefs whom they would probably not see at a restaurant.
No event would be complete without something for the sweet tooth! Christine Gallant from Sweet Treats in Summerside offered these delectable peach cobbler tartlets.
The table from Samuel’s Coffee House in Summerside was also a busy spot as the whoppie pies proved to be a popular item.
This event offered the opportunity for local chefs to be extra creative with Island beef and gave patrons a good sampling of the many delicious ways in which Island beef can be prepared.
The third weekend in September signals the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival. Seafood lovers from all over the world converge on Charlottetown for a weekend full of everything related to seafood, lots of great PEI food and entertainment. Now in its 19th year, this Festival continues to grow in popularity each year.
This Festival was the idea of local restaurateur, Liam Dolan, who saw it as a way to extend the PEI tourism season into the late summer.
The weekend kicked off on Thursday evening with a grand feast and frolic dinner hosted by celebrity chef, Michael Smith. This dinner was held in a gigantic tent on the Charlottetown Event Grounds and this annual event always sells out early. Some 500 people attended this year’s dinner which was beach themed.
The four-hour evening began with a meet and greet with Chef Smith — lots of autographs and photo opps.
The competition for the best oyster grower on the Island was also underway during the reception hour where there were lots of opportunities to watch oyster shucking and taste all the different PEI oysters.
These disappeared fast!
Some of the oyster competitors for the Oyster Grower of the Year Award.
The oysters were formally being judged by a panel but guests also had the opportunity to vote for the peoples’ choice. This year, both honours went to Colville Bay Oysters of Souris, PEI.
Lots of hors d’oeuvres were served by waiters who continuously circulated amongst the crowd with trays of tasty appetizers.
These Island Blue Mussel Spring Rolls were divine!
Now, when you walk into a large tent and see beautifully set tables with a black and white theme, you’d probably think you’re going to a formal sit down dinner with a plated meal. Well you are, well…sort of…..but you may be doing the plating and serving! You see, this event is an interactive dinner and every guest participates in some event at some point during the evening.
A Maitre’D was selected from each table and was presented with a package of information, including roles to be assigned to table guests. Yes, each table had a bartender, a member of the paparazzi, beefiest cook, best cook, fastest cook, a beachcomber, and a rock star. Guests really embraced the concept and soon every one was fully engaged in the fun.
First, Chef Michael took the bartenders from each table aside to explain how to make Caesars.
Each bartender collected a kit of supplies and returned to their tables to make the Caesars tableside and then serve them to their tablemates.
Biscuits were on the table to accompany the chowder course but….no butter! That’s because, the fastest cook at each table had to actually make the butter. Lots and lots of shaking of a Mason jar full of milk and, voilà, freshly-made butter for the biscuits! Yup, you really did need to work for your dinner at this event!
Next came three versions of chowder – one cold and two hot, served in glass jars and presented in these cool wooden trays.
Chef Michael then took all the “beachcombers” off to an onsite man-made beach to go combing for hidden beer caps. Once they found beer caps, they were each presented with a bucket of beer to bring back to their tables.
Then, we sent our table’s “Beefiest Cook” off with Chef Michael and back our cook came with a tray of slow roast striploin which he carved tableside and served to each guest at the table.
Wait staff delivered large bowls of PEI lobster to each table along with bowls of garden-fresh vegetables and brown butter mashed PEI potatoes.
Our “Best Cook” assignee joined Chef Michael at the back of the tent to learn how to plate food. He returned to the table with the makings for a summer berry shortcake – cowberry ice cream, fruit compotes, and biscuits.
Then our “Best Cook” wowed us with his plating skills!
Meanwhile, our “Rock Star” assignee was responsible for coaching us on our singing skills so we could sing the theme song, “A Day on a PEI Beach” at the end of the evening. Yours truly was the “Paparazzi” for our table.
While each table actually provided their own entertainment with all their assigned tasks, lively musical entertainment throughout the evening was provided by Mark Haines and Brad Fremlin.
This was a very unique way to serve dinner and it sure got people involved and interacting with others at their table. It kept the evening lively and moving along. Executing this kind of adventure for some 500 guests at a location where the only kitchen is a mobile one and where literally everything had to be brought in — food, equipment, tables, chairs, linens, dishes, etc. — is no small task. The sheer planning for this event would have been a monumental undertaking. Kudos go to Chef Michael Smith and the large team of chefs, waiters, hospitality and support staff from the Culinary Institute of Canada, and others for a phenomenal event.
If you ever have the opportunity to go to this annual dinner, I highly recommend it — but, fair warning, it will be full of hijinks and hilarity and come prepared to be an active participant, not just a spectator!
I thoroughly enjoy September on Prince Edward Island for many reasons but, topping the list, has to be the array of culinary events that form the Fall Flavours Festival, a month-long celebration of all things food on the Island. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you will recall postings from 2012 and 2013 about previous Fall Flavours events I attended and one in August 2014 about the Fall Flavours Festival in general. The 2014 Fall Flavours Festival kicked off on September 6, 2014, with an event to celebrate the creation of Canada. This signature event was held on the grounds of the Culinary Institute of Canada, in Charlottetown, PEI.
But, before I tell you about the evening, just a short lesson on Canadian history to help explain the significance of the grand Feast of the Fathers event.
This year (2014) marks the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference that set off a chain of events that eventually led to the forming of Canada. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick delegates were meeting in Charlottetown in early September, 1864, to discuss the possibility of a Maritime Union. When political leaders from what, today, are the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, heard of the meeting, they asked to attend. One of the delegates was Sir John A. Macdonald who would later go on to become Canada’s first prime minister. The delegates journeyed down the St. Lawrence to Charlottetown and discussions began about a much larger union than that of the three Maritime Provinces.
The delegates arriving at the foot of Great George Street and making their way up to Province House weren’t, however, the only show in town. A circus had rolled into Charlottetown and, as a result, there were few on hand at the dock to greet the now-famous Fathers of Confederation who would be instrumental in forming a nation.
The delegates met for several days and amidst formal meetings, elegant balls, and banquets, approval for Confederation was achieved with plans made for further conferences to be held in Quebec and London. Eventually, on July 1, 1867, the Dominion of Canada was formed with the proclamation of the British North America Act.
Now, you might wonder what this brief Canadian history lesson has to do with a food blog. Well, this summer, there have been a tremendous number of events on PEI to commemorate and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first meeting of the Fathers of Confederation who worked to form the nation. The Feast of the Fathers culinary event set out to recreate an evening and menu much like the Fathers of Confederation might have experienced during their stay on PEI in 1864. And, this event did not disappoint. It was beautifully and artfully executed in every way.
Guests to the Feast of the Fathers dinner were met by the Fathers and Mothers of Confederation who, in period costume, stroll the streets of Charlottetown in the summer months.
The evening began at 6:00pm with a champagne and oyster bar reception. Plans were for the reception to take place outside on the grounds of the Culinary Institute which overlooks the water. However, winds were a little too strong so the event was moved inside to the lower level of the Culinary Institute.
Guests were greeted with a glass of champagne and then they made their way to one of two oyster bars.
Talented musicians provided beautiful music during the reception.
Circus performers from Atlantic Cirque entertained guests.
This gal could really navigate on stilts!
Waiters circulated with trays of tasty hors d’oeuvres – a bacon-wrapped scallop, anyone?
Is your mouth watering yet?
But, wait, there’s more – lobster salad in mini pitas. Now, these were divine morsels!
Spring rolls, anyone?
Several people arrived in clothing representative of 1864 fashion.
Dinner was to be served in a huge tent on the Culinary Institute grounds.
I made my way into the tent before guests arrived so I could photograph the beautifully set tables.
The color theme was white and gold. Well-set tables always take my eye.
Lovely late summer table centerpieces adorned each table.
Each place setting had the evening’s program and menu tucked inside the napkin fold.
Take a look at the evening’s program and menu…..
The PEI Symphony was setting up and tuning the strings.
The evening was co-hosted by local comedian Patrick Ledwell and celebrity chef, Lynn Crawford.
These two proved to be a great combo.
A pre-dinner performance by the Atlantic Cirque thrilled guests.
The event was also attended by PEI’s Lieutenant-Governor, The Honourable H. Frank Lewis, and Mrs. Dorothy Lewis.
The Lieutenant Governor, with Sir John A. MacDonald (on the far left of photo below) looking on, made the Official Toast and then the scrumptuous meal commenced.
Each course was accompanied by an element of entertainment reminiscent of events around the 1864 Conference. At the beginning of each course, Chef Lynn described the meal to whet everyone’s appetite.
The PEI Symphony provided the musical accompaniment throughout the evening.
This was so tastefully and artfully presented (and it tasted every bit as good as it looked!). The Beaconsfield Assembly Scottish dance group danced the 5th and 3rd figures of the Caledonian Quadrilles.
Cedar Planked Maple Cured Salmon, Rock Crab Rissole, Mustard Pickle, and Roasted Oyster. Absolutely divine.
The Beaconsfield Assembly danced the Monymusk and The Triumph during this course of the meal.
The Beaconsfield Assembly, joined by the Fathers and Mothers of Confederation, danced the Viennese Waltz and invited guests to join in.
Apple Spice Cake, Caramel Whiskey Sauce, “COWS” Maple Walnut Ice Cream. What’s not to love about this yummy combo?
To top the evening off, a late evening concert was provided by the Barra MacNeils while Chef Lynn signed her cookbooks which were available for sale throughout the evening.
This was a full and entertaining evening – a sold out event. The best way I can describe the experience is first class all the way, from the food to the service to the entertainment. This event personified the “WOW” factor in every way. It was a perfect way to celebrate the creation of our nation. Hats off to the organizers, chefs, wait staff, and entertainers who wowed me yet again at a fine PEI Fall Flavours event.
If you have never been to a PEI Fall Flavours signature event, I highly recommend them. They are well-done and feature Island foods in many different ways.
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When I travel, I am often asked “when is the best time to visit Prince Edward Island?” Being an Islander who loves her home province, I admit to being somewhat biased (okay, ALOT biased) because anytime, in my opinion is a good time to be in PEI. However, if you are a foodie, then September on PEI is the special month for you! That’s when the bountiful diverse harvest from our land and sea come together for the month-long annual Fall Flavours Festival with dozens of food-related events, big and small, across this beautiful Island. This year’s Festival runs from September 5th -28th and it is chock-a-block full of food events and activities.
The Fall Flavours Festival began in 2008 as a 10-day project of the former Tourism Charlottetown group. According to Tracey Singleton, who was the Director of Marketing for Tourism Charlottetown at the time, the project had two objectives: 1) Capitalize on the growing trend of culinary tourism, and 2) extend the fall tourism season on PEI. Originators of the Festival had a clear vision for Fall Flavours: To create a fall culinary product that would highlight PEI’s key exports and drive tourism while establishing PEI as a culinary destination.
PEI has long been known for its fine foods, chief amongst them seafood and potatoes, as well as the Island hospitality…and oh, yes, the fabulous beaches that surround our Island. So, it’s a logical fit to combine our Island foods, culture, spectacular scenery, and hospitality into a month-long celebration. Some events, like the Lobster Party on the Beach held at Cedar Dunes Park in West Point, even include dining in a tent right on the beautiful sandy beach.
There is no doubt that Fall Flavours is a success story that has grown from a 10-day Festival to the month-long extravaganza it is today.
Singleton says, “PEI is becoming a Mecca for culinary tourism.”
Singleton says “PEI is becoming a Mecca for culinary tourism. Our artisan producers, our chefs, the reputation and awareness of PEI mussels, oysters, lobster, and potatoes have contributed to the [Festival’s] reputation as well as the relationship with Food Network Canada and its chefs have helped build credibility [of the Festival]”.
When deciding what events will be part of Fall Flavours and what local foods will be profiled, organizers focus on the five key food exports of PEI – lobster, oysters, mussels, beef, and potatoes.
One of the biggest challenges for Fall Flavours organizers is how to keep the Festival fresh and not continually repeat the same events in the exact same way year after year with the same celebrity chefs. Some events remain so popular, however, that they do repeat yearly – for example, the Lobster Party on the Beach, Chef on Board, A Taste of the North Shore, and Toes, Taps, and Taters. To keep those events fresh, organizers change the menu, entertainment, and celebrity chef host so the event has a new look and feel each year. Chef Anna Olson, returning for her third year at the Fall Flavours Festival, enjoys the opportunity to return to PEI for the Festival each year to host different events. She says it keeps her creative, gives her the chance to connect with guests in different ways and to make connections with so many people on the Island, hear their stories and the inevitable recipe-sharing that happens, too.
New events are added annually, some are retired, and others are put on hiatus for a year or two. Some of the new events this year (2014) include Oysters on the Pier in Northport, Lamb Luau on the Beach at Crowbush, and Feast of the Fathers in Charlottetown to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference where the now famous Fathers of Confederation met to lay the groundwork for what would later become Canada. Savour Victoria is back after a year off in 2013. Look for other returning favorites such as The Great Grilled Cheese Challenge and Beef and Blues.
Organizers tell me that patrons to Fall Flavours events are about 50/50 Islanders and tourists. Tourists come for Fall Flavours events to taste great Island food, meet acclaimed celebrity chefs, and experience the Island culture and way of life. Many are repeat visitors year after year. According to Singleton whose company, Versatile Management Group Inc., is now the event organizer for the Festival, over 12,000 tickets were sold for Fall Flavours events in 2013, an increase of 16% in ticket sales from the previous year.
There are several different categories of events that form part of the Fall Flavours Festival – there are Signature Events, Culinary Events, Culinary Adventures, and Restaurant Dining. Each year, there are a certain number of events that are classed as “Signature Events” – in fact, this year, there are 11 of them. An event classed as “Signature” means it will feature a celebrity chef host from Food Network Canada. Many of the events are interactive with opportunities to meet and greet the celebrity chefs.
Most will also have a cooking demonstration by the celebrity chef host. If the chefs are also cookbook authors, their books will be available for sale onsite and there will be opportunities to have the books signed by the chefs. Making appearances at this year’s Fall Flavours Festival Signature Events are Food Network Canada Celebrity Chefs Lynn Crawford, Anna Olson, Corbin Torraszeski, Chuck Hughes, Michael Smith, Mark MacEwan, and Massimo Capra. It’s a star-studded line-up!
In addition to the Signature Events, there are a number of culinary events and culinary adventures happening across the Island in September. There is a wide range of activities to suit all tastes.
As Chef Olson says, “I think PEI has achieved the impossible: offering “something for everyone”! The range of events and locations makes this Festival a truly delicious testament to the spirit of PEI.”
As Chef Olson says, “I think PEI has achieved the impossible: offering “something for everyone”! The range of events and locations makes this Festival a truly delicious testament to the spirit of PEI.”So, look for culinary events and adventures like the Beer Festival, clam brunches, roaming feasts, harvest meals, heritage dinners, Farm Day in the City, and culinary demonstrations and cooking classes at Holland College’s Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of Canada. As well, several of the Island’s leading restaurants will feature special fall-inspired menus in September to coincide with the Fall Flavours Festival.
Ticket sales are brisk for 2014 events, says Singleton. In fact, she says sales are up 100% over the same period last year and the Festival is still one month away. So, if you are interested in taking in any of the Fall Flavours events, best not delay getting your tickets. Many of the events sell out.
Prices for the signature events range from $19.00 + HST for The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge to $139. + HST for the gala Feast and Frolic dinner that is part of the Shellfish Festival. Prices for the culinary events and adventures vary in price. For a complete list of Fall Flavours activities and prices, visit their website at www.fallflavours.ca
Event organizers for Fall Flavours continue to amaze me each year with their creativity and attention to detail in carrying out the events. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for patrons this year. Whatever it is, I know it will exhibit the “WOW!” factor!
Click on the links below to read stories I have written in the past about individual Fall Flavours events:
As many of you know, I am part of the year-long Canadian Food Experience Project. Each month, food blogger participants are prompted by a prescribed theme upon which to base a posting on their individual blogs. The February theme is “My Canadian Love Affair”.
What follows is the menu and description of my Valentine’s dinner 2014, using several of my favorite Island food products. In order to meet the timelines of the Project, I have prepared my dinner a week early so it can be included in the Project’s monthly round-up. My Canadian Love Affair is all about the great local food produced on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province.
When I think of foods that I love, well….there are many! But, coming from an Island blessed with rich red fertile soil and surrounded by the sea, I would have to say that seafood and potatoes would rank high on my list. So, for my Valentine’s dinner, I have incorporated both but the potatoes in one of the recipes may be presented in a form that could surprise some of you. Here’s a taste to whet your appetite ….
The following is the four-course menu for my Valentine’s Dinner which features some of my favorite Island products:
(steamed in apple cider and herbs and dipped in Island-churned butter)
Jeff McCourt’s PEI Seafood Chowder
(a rich, smooth, and creamy chowder filled
with a variety of PEI seafood and Island potatoes)
Lobster Newburg served in a patty shell accompanied by a crisp green salad
(lobster and mushrooms in a rich sherry and cheese sauce)
Chocolate Potato Cake
Wine Pairing: Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine (PEI)
It would be hard to surpass PEI mussels. They are shipped all over the globe and are world renowned. There are many ways to prepare mussels and there are many different liquids in which they can be steamed, each of which will give a slightly different flavor to the mussels. The important thing about steaming mussels is to use very little liquid. Using too much liquid will diminish the flavor of the mussels. It is the steam from the liquid that forces the mussel shells open, not the amount of liquid itself. These delicacies take very little time to cook – they are cooked when the shells open, a process that generally takes about 5-7 minutes. Be sure to discard any shells that have not opened during the steaming process.
Today, I have steamed the mussels in a small amount of apple cider enhanced by a sprinkle each of lemon thyme, parsley, and basil all dried from our garden last summer. How much liquid is needed is based, of course, on how many mussels are being steamed. Because I was only steaming about 15-20 mussels for these two appetizers, I only used about 2 tbsp of apple cider.
While mussels are used in various recipes, including mussel chowder, the most common way to eat mussels on the Island is dipped in melted butter (oh-là-là!). Mussels are a common food found at many get-togethers because they are quick and easy to prepare and are so very tasty.
For the second course, I couldn’t bypass an all-time favorite of mine – a good seafood chowder.
This recipe comes courtesy of the Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown. This award-winning recipe was developed by Chef Jeff McCourt who was the chef instructor at the one-day “Island Flavors” Boot Camp that I attended a couple of years ago. This chowder was one of the dishes that participants made at the Boot Camp. The Culinary Institute kindly gave me permission to share the seafood chowder recipe as part of the story I was writing on the Boot Camps. If you find yourself on PEI during the summer/fall seasons when the Culinary Boot Camps are operating, this is a fantastic way to learn about cooking with local Island products and flavors. Click here to see my story on the Boot Camps and to get the PEI Seafood Chowder recipe.
I have made many seafood chowder recipes but have not found any that I liked better than this one. It is filled with a great variety of delectable Island seafood along with PEI potatoes and has a rich, tasty chowder base. Seafood chowder is a great way to sample several different kinds of local seafood all in one dish. This recipe suggests a variety of seafood that includes lobster, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and crab. On PEI, we would typically serve the seafood chowder with crusty rolls, biscuits, or baguette slices.
For my main course, I simply had to choose lobster! Lobster is still the seafood king on the Island and Islanders love their lobster.
The most typical way Islanders enjoy their lobster is straight out of the shell, dipped in melted butter, and served with potato salad, coleslaw, and rolls. A jellied salad and slices of tomato and cucumber are also often included.
There are numerous enterprises around the Island that, seasonally, serve lobster suppers that generally consist of mussels, seafood chowder, lobster in the shell, salads, rolls, and a selection of pies and other desserts. There are three main lobster supper venues on PEI. Saint Anne’s Church Lobster Suppers in Hope River, not far from Cavendish, PEI, began in 1963 when a priest came up with the idea to have lobster suppers as a means to raise money to pay off the $35,000 mortgage on the church. New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in New Glasgow, in operation since 1958, and Fishermen’s Wharf Restaurant in North Rustico also serve full lobster suppers as well. A traditional lobster supper at one of these establishments is a must-stop for lobster lovers visiting PEI. In addition, most restaurants on the Island will feature lobster in one form or another on their menus. Last summer, I crisscrossed the Island in search of the best lobster roll on PEI since these are a common menu item for many restaurants. Click here to read about which one was my favorite.
The popularity of lobster is somewhat ironic. Today, it is a high-priced food, often considered by many a luxury and reserved for special occasions. However, on PEI, that was not always the case. I remember speaking with an Island woman who grew up about 65 years ago in an Island fishing community where her father was a lobster fisherman. She remembers being embarrassed opening her lunch at school and revealing a lobster sandwich since lobster was associated with poor people! My, how times have changed!
As a child, I had no interest in eating lobster. In fact, when my family was having a “feed of lobster” at home, my mother always roasted me a chicken! They would coax me to try the lobster but it just didn’t appeal to me. Finally, as a young adult, I gave in and tried a bite of lobster….well, let’s just say that’s when my love affair with lobster began and I’ve been making up for all the years I didn’t eat it!
So, it would be a logical choice that I would choose lobster as the main course for a special Valentine’s dinner. I have opted to go with a traditional Lobster Newburg served in light and airy patty shells accompanied by a crisp green salad.
Lobster is fished in PEI from spring through to fall so we have no winter lobster fishing season on the Island. Many of us freeze lobster meat when it is in season to enjoy in recipes, like Lobster Newburg, throughout the remainder of the year. My recipe for Lobster Newburg can be made with either fresh or frozen lobster meat.
Lobster Newburg, although it is often considered an elaborate menu item, is really quite easy to prepare. It’s also a good way to stretch lobster to increase the number of servings you can get from the meat of a lobster. What makes Lobster Newburg so tasty and silky in texture is the sauce. This is a rich, creamy cheese and sherry sauce so large portion sizes are not necessary. I traditionally serve Lobster Newburg in patty shells. However, it can also be presented over toast points or served over a bed of steamed rice. Or, it may be served in small individual casserole dishes with a side of steamed asparagus spears. The recipe for my Lobster Newburg follows at the end of this posting.
Much as Islanders have an enduring love affair with food that comes from the sea that surrounds us, we also have a special fondness for our famous PEI potatoes. For the past two years, I have followed a couple of potato farmers from the planting of the crop to the harvesting process. To read these stories and get a couple of my favorite potato recipes, here are the two links to the postings for Smith Farms of Newton, PEI and Eric C. Robinson Inc., of Albany, PEI.
I have chosen to serve a Chocolate Potato Cake as a finale to my Valentine’s dinner. Yes, potatoes in a cake! It’s amazing how many different ways potatoes can be served. Earlier this week, I posted my recipe for Chocolate Potato Cake on my food blog.
To make this feast truly a PEI dinner, I chose a white wine from PEI’s Rossignol Winery in Little Sands, PEI. The Island has three wineries – the other two are Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone and Matos Winery in St. Catherine’s, PEI. Each makes fine wine that is a great accompaniment to any meal.
To compliment the tablesetting, I chose locally-grown tulips from Vanco Farms’ greenhouses in Mount Albion, PEI. Aren’t they beautiful flowers!
So, this is my local flavors Valentine’s dinner for 2014, featuring some of my favorite and most loved local PEI foods and wine. I hope you enjoy them, too!
4-5 oz cooked lobster (either fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp butter
3 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1½ tbsp flour
⅛ tsp paprika
¾ cup whole milk or half-and-half
2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
½ tbsp sherry
1½ tsp brandy
1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
salt and pepper, to taste
Melt first amount of butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add and sauté mushrooms for approximately 2 minutes. Set aside.
In separate saucepan, melt remaining tablespoon of butter. Add flour, paprika, and nutmeg. Whisk in the milk until mixture is smooth. Add cheese. Stir mixture constantly until slightly thickened.
Add approximately 2 tbsp of the hot sauce to the egg yolk to temper the egg so it won’t curdle when added to the hot sauce. Add the tempered egg to the sauce in the pan.
Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, then add the lobster meat and mushrooms.
Add the sherry and brandy and cook and stir slowly for 1-2 minutes to heat the lobster and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Serve immediately in baked patty shells or over toast points or steamed rice.
Yield: 2-3 servings
Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.
Be sure to visit my Facebook page at My Island Bistro Kitchen. You may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro, on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”, and on Instagram at “PEIBistro”.
The chef profession is changing and evolving, probably faster than ever before in history. No longer are chefs hidden away in their kitchens. Today, many are taking the profession and their career to unheard-of heights. TV cooking shows, culinary events like PEI’s Fall Flavors, the popularity of cookbooks written by accomplished chefs, and chefs who engage and interact with fans via social media have all contributed to giving many chefs celebrity status. One of those is Chef Ilona Daniel. If you are a foodie on Prince Edward Island, chances are that you are familiar with Chef Ilona. This is a chef who has had a multi-faceted career to date and is not afraid to think (and step) outside the box – in fact, I’d go so far as to say Chef Ilona doesn’t even know there is a box!
Following her educational experience at McMaster University, Ilona thought she was heading to law school when suddenly her life took a turn in another direction. If it hadn’t been for her taking the leap of faith to follow her passion and calling, chances are Ilona might not have become a chef.
Ilona grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, and learned the pleasure of fine cooking by standing at the kitchen counter by the stove as she watched her mom prepare meals. Cooking was an integral part of her entire being in her formative years and she attributes her mom as having a big influence on her love of cooking.
A chef now for 12 years, Ilona’s first job as a teenager was working in a burger joint at the age of 16. Even then, whether she knew it or not, her life’s path was already being charted in the food industry. After making the decision that law school was not her destiny, Ilona studied at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute in Niagara, Ontario. After completing her studies in Niagara, she was awarded a full scholarship for the Applied Degree in Culinary Operations at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown, PEI, and was in the first graduating class from the two-year program. Like many others who have found their way to PEI, Ilona fell in love with the Island and decided to make it her home.
Since graduating from culinary school, Chef Ilona has had an incredibly varied career. She has been the Head Chef at the Stanhope Beach Resort, Interim Chef at Sims and Off Broadway Restaurants, Founding Chef at the Brickhouse, Executive Chef to the Lieutenant-Governor of PEI at Fanningbank, Executive Chef of Holland College’s Culinary Boot Camps, Resident Food Scene Writer for G Magazine, and Culinary Instructor at the PC Cooking School at the local Superstore. And, that’s not all. This fall, she was the Culinary Expert for the PEI2014 Roadshow that travelled across Canada to promote the planned events in PEI in 2014 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference that led to the creation of Canada. Perhaps you may have seen Chef Ilona on one of several morning TV shows. Most recently, Chef Ilona has started her own Catering and Consulting Business — Tribe Fresh Cookery. This is a gal who likes to be busy!
Out of this impressive resume, I asked Chef Ilona which job was the most interesting. Her response was starting her own business because she is building it from the ground up. Her most challenging job was working at the Stanhope Beach Resort because it was a seasonal operation so it meant every year was starting all over again with new staff to be trained quickly. The job that surprised her the most was being Executive Chef to PEI’s Lieutenant-Governor. In this role, she prepared food for many events and functions that included a number of award ceremonies to honour Islanders who were making a difference to their communities. This allowed her to see what a generous and giving community PEI really is. While in this role, Ilona became the first chef at Fanningbank to use social media to tell the story of what food was being prepared for their Honours and for events. Chef Ilona says her most fulfilling job has been her role as Executive Chef of the Culinary Boot Camps. Chef Ilona particularly enjoys the Kids Camps where they are shown how to grow vegetables and make their own food. It’s an opportunity to influence the next generation to eat well.
Chef Ilona’s philosophy in cooking is to “cook with love and don’t be afraid to be different”. She says “there are Chefs whose food can be executed but not necessarily made with passion”. She does not follow trends but rather follows her heart and takes the road less traveled. Her belief is that food should be natural and real. As she says, “good food inspires conversation and doesn’t have to be complicated; use the best local ingredients executed with flawless technique and care about what you are doing”.
I asked Chef Ilona what inspires the recipes and menus she creates. First, she says she needs to know who her audience is. She makes a point of respecting any dietary concerns they may have and is excited to be creative to cook interesting and tasty foods that meet their dietary requirements.
Second, she likes to play on nostalgia, conjuring up memories like the tantalizing scent of apple pie, for example, that will lead to good conversation which goes hand-in-hand with dining. Third, she respects the cultural roots of the region and is creative when cooking with the foods local to the region.
With so many prepared, frozen, and ready-to-go meals on the market today, I asked Chef Ilona why there seems to have been a resurgence in home cooking in the past few years. She believes it is attributable to a number of health issues, including highly publicized food-born illnesses that were caused by contaminated food. This has caused consumers to be more concerned about buying modified foods that are full of preservatives and, instead, they are becoming more health-conscious and so are turning to making their own meals.
What’s next for Chef Ilona? She tells me she is working on a cookbook and exploring the possibility of filming some TV cooking shows. In the short-term, she is busy getting her Catering and Consulting business up and running. Ever thinking outside the box, Chef Ilona is offering what she calls “Kitchen Party Cooking Classes”. This is where she will come to your home and teach you and a small group of friends how to interactively cook a particular dish – e.g., sushi, gourmet pizza, pies, etc. This is way to engage foodies and get them participating in food preparation, all in the comfort of their own home. What a great idea for a girls night out, a bachelorette party, or just a get-together for no other reason other than good conversation and food. If you are interested in having Chef Ilona cater to your event or customize a Kitchen Party Cooking Class, contact her at 902-316-0993 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Before we ended our chat, I asked Chef Ilona to answer some short snapper questions:
1. What is the one kitchen tool/gadget you can’t live without?
Can’t pick just one – have the “fast five” – Chef’s knife, small serrated paring knife, a Swiss peeler, a microplane, and a good quality cutting board.
2. What is your all time favorite food?
Pizza – any kind!
3. What is the one non-culinary factoid about Chef Ilona that people might not know about?
I’m a hippie at heart – I like nature and will actually, “stop and smell the roses.”
4. What do you do when you are not cooking?
I like reading, nature hikes, listening to music, and going to concerts.
5. What is your favorite recipe featuring an Island product? Care to share it?
Swedish Potato Casserole. It uses PEI potatoes and PEI-produced Cows Creamery cheese. (Recipe follows)
As you preheat your oven to 375 (use convection baking if you have that option), preheat your 4-6 quart baking dish with 4-6 tbsp butter in the oven.
Whisk thoroughly, the first 6 ingredients together(approximately 3 minutes). Stir in the potatoes. Pour mixture into the hot casserole dish. QUICKLY top with cheese, and place back into oven immediately.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Keep an eye on this rising celebrity chef as she progresses in her career. Chef Ilona is very creative, brimming with ideas and personality, and she’s going places in her chosen career!
Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.
Be sure to visit my Facebook page at My Island Bistro Kitchen. You may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro, on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”, and on Instagram at PEIBistro.
(Mostly) PEI and Maritime Food – Good Food for a Good Life!